Mast (naval)

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For information about a ship's mast, see Mast (sailing).

In naval tradition, a mast is a non-judicial punishment ("NJP") disciplinary hearing under which a commanding officer studies and disposes of cases involving those in his command.

If the officer conducting the proceeding is either a captain, or a lower ranking officer (typically a commander or lieutenant commander) serving as commanding officer of a naval or coast guard vessel, an aviation squadron, or similar command afloat or ashore, then the proceeding is referred to as a captain's mast.

If an admiral is overseeing the mast, then the procedure is referred to as an admiral's mast or a flag mast.[1]

A captain's mast or admiral's mast is a procedure whereby the commanding officer must:

  • Make inquiry into the facts surrounding minor offenses allegedly committed by a member of the command;
  • Afford the accused a hearing as to such offenses; and
  • Dispose of such charges by dismissing the charges, imposing punishment under the provisions of military law or referring the case to a court-martial.

A captain's mast is not:

  • A trial, as the term "non-judicial" implies;
  • A conviction, even if punishment is imposed;
  • An acquittal, even if punishment is not imposed.

In the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, these proceedings take place under the authority of Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

The term mast may also refer to when a captain or commanding officer makes themself available to hear concerns, complaints or requests from their crew. Traditionally, on a naval vessel, the captain would stand at the main mast of that vessel when holding mast. The crew, who by custom did not speak with the captain, could speak to him directly at these times. It could also refer to the naval punishment of tying one to a mast and lashing them with a whip.

In modern times, a meritorious mast refers to the commanding officer taking this time to single out a member of the crew for praise and present written recognition of work well done.[2]

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